St. Joseph team to beat; a game with 7 All-FCIAC players

Jenn Vazquez and her St. Joseph teammates are the team to beat in the FCIAC Tournament.

Jenn Vazquez and her St. Joseph teammates are the team to beat in the FCIAC Tournament.

St. Joseph and Westhill entered today’s game with identical 15-3 overall and 14-2 league records. And with the top seed in next week’s FCIAC Tournament on the line, the Cadets came away with a convincing 8-2 win.

I will have an FCIAC Tournament preview in the paper this weekend. I’m thinking of doing a little more on my Overtime blog as well (including ranking the teams’ title chances, 1-8, which is probably a fruitless task).

I don’t remember there ever being greater parity in the league. While a few outcomes might produce some minor surprises, I can’t say any would shock me. Consider that Danbury clinched the No. 8 seed Wednesday night and will open the playoffs Monday at St. Joseph. The Hatters won the teams’ previous meeting, 8-7.

We aren’t going to show all of our cards just yet, but a few thoughts from today’s game:

— I thought this at 4 p.m. and it was confirmed two hours later: St. Joseph is definitely the favorite in the playoffs. The Cadets have the best balance of pitching, offense and defense in the league. No area is a weakness. Pitchers Tori Ceballos and Nicole Williams would each start for almost every other team in the league. The seven other entrants have either a noticeable shortcoming, or an area that is not a total strength.

Westhill coach Tom Pia said after the game the Cadets had to be considered the team to beat. That sentiment was echoed by the coach of another playoff team later in a phone conversation.

“They deserve to be No. 1,” Pia said. “I like them all around as a team. All nine players hit the ball well.”

— Don’t go writing Westhill off just yet. It still possesses as good an offense as there is in the league. The Vikings have been outscoring teams all year. Can the same team shut them down twice in eight days, if there is a rematch in the final? We will see.

— The loss cost the Vikings the No. 1 seed, but not much else. They will still be the No. 2 seed with a win Friday over Ridgefield and not have to face St. Joseph until the final. And if form holds, Stamford would be the No. 3 seed, we could have an all-Stamford semifinal and be assured of a team from the city in the final.

— When was the last time there were seven All-FCIAC players in a softball game at the same time? It has likely happened before, but not often. The voting was held by league coaches Tuesday night. Morgan Kurtz, Megan D’Alessandro, Tammy Wise and Kate Brainard of Westhill were honored, and Jenn Vazquez, Ceballos and Williams from St. Joseph.

—  I am sure there were a lot of smiles on the faces of the St. Joseph players when they learned they will be playing Danbury in the first round. They want the rematch.

(I invite you to follow me on Twitter: @DaveRuden and like the Overtime Facebook fan page.)